LUTZ — Steinbrenner moved quickly in its 3-2 win over Plant, needing just one hour and 40 minutes Friday to seal its 10th consecutive win.
Had the Warriors needed an hour and 45 minutes, though, it could have been a different story.
Starting pitcher Chris Williams and reliever Logan LaPace had limited the Panthers (16-7) to one run and three hits through six innings. After Steinbrenner went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth, the rain came. Just a few drops at first, but then it quickly started to pour.
Plant’s Joe Hudek drew a two-out walk. Stephen Chamblee moved him into scoring position with a single to center. And then Nick Rich sent a high fly ball to shallow rightfield, and as the Warriors’ Patrick Hahne came running in, looking up into the rain, he dropped the ball. Hudek scored easily but Hahne recovered quickly enough to throw out Chamblee, coming from first, at the plate to end the game.
“I was kind of frightened because it was just pouring, and I was like, ‘Oh, boy, here we go,’ ” said Williams, who was watching from the dugout. “But Patrick Hahne did a great job sticking with it, and he’s got one of the best arms on the team.”
Hahne’s throw — and a few from Williams over four innings — sent Steinbrenner (17-6) into the Class 7A, District 9 tournament riding the longest win streak in the program’s three-year history. Throughout the monthlong stretch , the Warriors pitching staff has surrendered two runs per game (as opposed to 4.6 in the first 13). And Friday, against a Panthers squad that bats .323 collectively, LaPace provided the Warriors with something they were lacking at the beginning of the season: quality relief.
Plant took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI double from Chamblee. Steinbrenner, though, answered in next half-inning, turning three Panthers errors (and an RBI double from Gerald Bautista) into three runs. And that was all either team would score until the slippery situation in the seventh.